So you think you’re funny? Do you slay ’em at the dinner table? Why not turn that wit into cold hard cash. (Or warm squishy cash, as the case may be.)
The greeting card industry is huge. People — especially female people — love to send cards for birthdays, for Christmas, for Valentine’s Day, for every other holiday, for weddings, for anniversaries, for births, for deaths, for sickness, for congratulations, and sometimes for no reason at all other than to say “hi.”
Americans send around seven billion (yes, that is billion with a “b”) cards every year.
What you may not know is that many greeting card companies rely heavily on freelance writers. While the largest companies have their own in-house staffs of writers and artists, smaller companies often buy all of their text and artwork from freelancers.
You don’t have to be an artist to sell to greeting card companies. While there are a few companies that prefer to buy text and artwork together, most companies buy them separately. They will buy the text from writers first, and then assign the text to freelance (or sometimes in-house) artists to do the illustrations.
The pay for a freelance-written greeting card idea ranges from about $15 on the low end to $200 on the high end.
$200 for one line sounds amazing, and if you did the division to get a dollar per word rate, it would come out to some insanely high number. And that is a great rate. However, making that kind of money isn’t as easy as it may sound, because you have to submit many, many card ideas for every one that you sell. You need a lot of patience and persistence to succeed in this game.
To get started, you need to locate companies that are soliciting freelance work, and then find out exactly what they are looking for and how they would like you to present your ideas to them.
Smaller companies may specialize in particular kinds of humor. Some may publish gentle, heartwarming humor. Others may go for sharp-tongued slams. A few specialize in X-rated humor, some will publish mildly suggestive cards, and others will be strictly squeaky clean. A few offer cards that are highly specialized, for example cards for golfers, or for horse lovers, or for people from a specific ethnic group.
Companies also like to imitate other successful companies. Many smaller companies like to publish work that is similar in style to the very successful “Shoebox” line of humorous cards that Hallmark puts out. You should definitely spend some time in card shops reading Shoebox cards to get a feel for the style.
Once you locate a company you are interested in, you should get a copy of their guidelines. This is a sheet of information they have prepared specifically for prospective freelancers like yourself. The guidelines will tell you everything that you need to know about the mechanics of how and where to submit your work. They may also give you tips about the kind of humor that the company is looking for, especially if they focus on a particular humor niche..
In the old days, you would send the company a self-addressed stamped envelope, and they would mail a copy of their guidelines sheet back to you. Nowadays, most greeting card companies that solicit freelance work will have the guidelines posted on their web sites.
In addition to reading the guidelines, you should look at the company’s cards, if possible, to get an even better feel for the kind of humor that they like. The internet again makes this easier, as many companies will have some of their cards displayed on their websites. If the company doesn’t have a website, see if you can locate their cards in stores. If not, just go by the guidelines.
Being a freelance greeting card writer is an unusual hobby that can bring in a significant chunk of cash. As far as I know, there isn’t anybody who makes a living being a freelance card writer (unless they are also artists), but you can make hundreds or thousands of dollars a year at this on a very part-time basis. You’ll also get a big kick out of going into a store and browsing through the cards, and then all of a sudden, seeing your words staring back at you from the rack!
For more detailed information on how to locate companies that are soliciting freelance work, see my article on that topic (click on my name above to get an article list).